Home' Ships and Shipping : February 2011 Contents © BAIRD PUBLICATIONS LTD 2011
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In Shipping, as in every sector of business, the world belongs to the innovators.
Arguably, the most important innovations have been made over the past two
centuries. I have in mind steam power, propellers, iron hulls, steel hulls, tankers, diesel
power, bulkers, containerisation, radio, aluminium hulls, waterjets, LNG tankers, LNG
fuel, GPS, satcom, fibreglass, podded propulsion systems, modern paints, and, I am sure,
All have allowed the industry to make enormous strides in its capabilities and its
economics. While the change from sail to coal and then oil power was not beneficial
environmentally, it enabled enormous economic and social advances. More recently,
attention has been focused on making internal combustion engines more
environmentally friendly. Significant innovations have led to worthwhile
improvements there also.
Taken together, all the innovations I have listed, and those I couldn’t think of, have
certainly benefited our industry and probably most of mankind as well. So much so, in
fact, that I sometimes wonder, whatever next? I know I won’t be wondering for long.
We are still learning of useful innovations almost monthly.
Obviously, we’ll all be long dead before the perfect ship is invented but we are
making constant and worthwhile progress in that direction. The recent general
realisation that at least in shipping, economics and environmentalism are closely
aligned is certainly inspiring rapid improvements.
There are many environmentally or economically unattractive aspects of shipping
that are being closely studied with a view to their elimination or replacement. I have
written previously of the waste inherent in, for example, the inadequate backloading of
bulkers carrying coal or iron from Australia to Asia, and of container ships carrying
refrigerators in the reverse direction.
It is clever that such wastefully inadequate back loading creates significant economic
and environmental costs; I am delighted to note, though, that major efforts are being
directed towards their elimination.
Meanwhile, descriptions of innovations that represent really valuable advances
continue to flow across my desk. I have in mind, for example, the very impressive
‘Rescuerunner’ rescue boat that is described elsewhere in this issue. It is cheap, efficient,
easily handled and safe.
Six months or so before I learnt of the ‘Rescuerunner’ I was informed of the
Winged Air Induction Pipe (WAIP) technology that is being promoted in Japan.
Developed by Professor Yoshiaki Takahashi, a former chief engineer of IHI Shipping,
WAIP technologies is claimed to significantly reduce ship friction and, therefore,
resistance. Professor Takahashi is talking about energy (read fuel and emissions)
savings of 15 to 20 percent.
Some years previously, we started to learn of the fuel savings being provided by
fitting MOL Techno-Trade Propeller Boss Cap Fins (PBCF) which are also from Japan.
They claim fuel savings of around five percent. The claims have been verified by the
200 owners around the world who gave fitted them to more than 1,800 ships.
Almost annually we see a new bow shape being promoted. Some look a bit weird at
first but as they join the mainstream they tend to become the norm. They must provide
a benefit or owners wouldn’t order them.
The year 2010 saw great strides being made in the adoption of LNG as a fuel. While
its containment may be complex and expensive, this seems to be outweighed by
significant emission reductions and worthwhile fuel cost savings. We are sure to see
many more LNG or dual fuelled ships before long.
Even the comparatively mundane matter of container packing is seeing very
significant improvements. Here in Melbourne, a long way from shipping’s mainstreams,
Strang Systems has developed an economical environmentally friendly method of
container packing that significantly improves that safety of both cargo and stevedore.
It may be hard to imagine that you can actually improve anything inside the
ubiquitous and wonderful “box”. A little lateral thinking and a lot of innovation on the
part of the clever people at Strangs have proved conclusively that you can.
The shipping industry, very fortunately, is replete with innovators. We should
celebrate their achievements and salute them because they make all of our lives better.
Innovation reigns supreme
EDITORIAL FEBRUARY 2011
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